Kanwarjit Walia was in his early 20s when he decided to leave his native India and travel the world.
“I wanted to go abroad andchange my financial conditions,” says Walia, now 35.
He arrived in Ontario and worked in Oakville for a while before heading west.
“But I missed Ontario,” he said. “I wanted to come back.”
That’s when he answered a job ad for a new restaurant in Sarnia specializing in East Indian food.
Walia says he’d already been cooking professionally for years. He applied and got the Sarnia job.
“People in Canada love East Indian food,” he smiled. “They love the curry; they love it mild or spicy and I will cook it either way.”
Walia eventually left Sarnia to go back to India and marry.
But while there, he began dreaming of having his own restaurant. In fact, he even thought about specific locations he recalled back in Canada.
“I know there’s risk to this business, but my family kept telling me I could do it,” he said. “What’s required is good food and consistency. And I want people who spend time in my restaurant to be comfortable.”
While waiting in India for his wife’s immigration papers, Walia went online to lease space at 1095 London Rd., near the corner of Murphy.
He began buying artwork to bring back to Sarnia for the dining room, and he began designing his menu.
The couple arrived in Ontario in November and Walia’s Spice n Ice restaurant featuring East Indian cuisine opened April 8.
“We have a large menu so there’s something for everyone,” he said. “I just want to tell people, don’t just go for the buttered chicken.
“I know that’s what everyone likes, but try something new. Tell us what you like and I’ll cook it according to your tolerance for spice.”
Most menu items can be ordered mild to very hot. Spice n Ice – with the latter referring to the drink menu – also caters to special diets.
There are, for instance, several vegan choices such as eggplant bhartha, which is roasted eggplant with sliced onion, tomatoes and medium spices for $12; or mushroom-do-pyaaza with red onions cooked in dry thick tomato, an onion-based sauce and spices for $12.
Walia’s signature dishes feature vegetables, lamb, chicken, fish or shrimp and come with a mild curry flavoured with cashews, mint and spinach for $15 – $18.
He and his wife, Monika, have outfitted their kitchen with an East Indian tandoor oven for baking Indian breads and some of the entrees.
For now, Walia is doing all the cooking. However, he’d like to find a chef who knows his way around a tandoor oven, since working with an oven that reaches temperatures of 500 F is a specialized skill.
The dining room at Spice n Ice has seating for 30, with tables covered in white linen. A liquor licence is anticipated in several weeks.
Spice n Ice at the end of the plaza at 1095 London Road, is open seven days a week. Takeout is available. Call 519-344-2439 for details.
RETURNING TO NORTHGATE
Schuylers, a long-established card and gift shop, is moving back to Northgate Plaza on May 1. A welcome home tea party is planned for Saturday May 2.
Schuylers has been in business for almost 40 years and relocated to 533 Exmouth several years ago. The new address will be in the west end of Northgate plaza near Dollarama.
Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.